Fintech App Security: Top-10 steps you need to be aware of (Part 1)

Fintech applications collect a vast amount of private data that, as a result, makes many users doubt whether to disclose their financial and personal information to receive a new app for managing their funds. Fintech app developers need to go above and beyond to provide high levels of safety measures to get new customers on board. People nowadays want to see an even more sophisticated approach towards their private information, so their expectations in terms of mobile banking apps are pretty high. As financial institutions possess all types of information about their clients, including home address, credit card details, credit scores, and many more, security has to be on top of their priority. After all, the reputation and the future success of a Fintech app mainly depend on the security levels it is capable to provide. 

Let’s look at the most foreground steps that are important for developing a secure app for mobile banking. 

Making each Usage Stage Secure 

The utmost importance here is to integrate safety in each application process and every usage phase. Determining how to achieve safety of the most sensitive data is vital and should be decided in the first place. 

Store Essential Information Only

You don’t have to store all the information that you receive from the users. Things like card numbers are not needed to complete a transaction. There are those servers that are used to hold tokens for the purpose of identifying the billing method and then transfer them to the system to charge the person. That server that asks for the payment does not require the billing info. This method eliminates data breach and takes away the possibility of stealing personal information. Apple Pay, for instance, with an idea to limit data breach has popularized the token concept and implemented one-time pin codes to complete the payment. 

Decide on the Permission Structure

There will be features in the application that not every customer will have direct access to. For the purpose of managing permissions, you should consider getting a system like Role-Based Access Control or Access Control List. Both are of great help and assist with listing operations that customers are allowed to do and setting up particular roles. 

Implement Compound Passwords

The implementation of a strong password is a necessity for any mobile application. However, fintech ones need to be way more strict and force their customers to make up a more compound password that will not contain their birthdate, name, or any other data that is in free access. On another note, it should also be mandatory to create new passwords every two-three months in order to keep all the data safe. Integrate a system that will ask users to create a password with at least 12-14 characters, lower and upper cases, and special symbols. 

Do not ignore Multi-factor Authentication 

Apart from asking for the password and the user’s name, fintech applications need to integrate additional steps to access the account. Some applications set a few-step-entry, asking to provide a one-time pin that is being sent to a mobile number or stated email. Others integrate push notifications that give an opportunity for every customer to undergo faster authentication.

Keep it all logged

All the customer activity in the application should be properly logged. Their transactions, location, data from the device, user ID, IP address prove to be effective in the long run. In case of any incident, these logs should be accessible to review everything from different angles and are essential for creating a postmortem report. 

Monitor and Block if needed

Monitoring transactions is another much-needed step to identify suspicious activity and freeze it all until reviewed properly. There can be special methods for scoring fraud and rating transactions from low to high-risk ones. When there is an unusual transaction, the system will then decline it and send an alert to inspect user activity. 

Ask for Additional Approval 

There are some actions, like withdrawing large sums of money or editing sensitive data that do not happen on a regular basis but might occur sooner or later. For the purpose of securing user information and reducing any possible risks, it’s recommended to confirm the action with several steps and ask for additional approval before executing the unusual transaction. 

Writing a Proper and Secure Code

Any fintech app that wants to prove successful in the future should possess a proper and safe code. It secures all the customer information on the server and saves it on their devices. Creating the right algorithms will assist with detecting code defects while testing them regularly will reveal any existing vulnerabilities. It should be prompt and portable to act on time and update it in case of data leakage. So what does it take to secure an app code? 

Implement Input Validation

One of the essential steps towards establishing proper security and preventing the injection of any malicious codes in the application is validating the input. The function rejects or sanitizes the input, stopping improperly formed data from getting into the system. 

Keep an Eye on the Data sent Externally

Any information sent to external networks should be reviewed. Only the necessary one should be shared in order to eliminate any risks related to sensitive data leakage. 

Deny the Access 

Make it a default feature and deny any access to all the functions that exist in the application. It should be allowed only “on request” basis. 

Ensure an Access Control in Place

In order to create a safe fintech application, you need to define rules for accessing it. Make sure to cover permissions to access files, IDs that are not secure, and caching from the user side. The proper policy towards access and its control is mandatory to eliminate unauthorized use of personal information and its disclosure.

Beware of SQL

One of the effective methods used by hackers is SQL injection. Hence, test the application vulnerability by simulating attacks to see how high are the risks. Once done, you will know the areas that need better protection.

Protect the Sensitive Information

You need to identify the utmost sensitive data to add on layers of protection. It can be SSL certificate installation, firewall usage for web applications, or avoiding data transmission in cleartext.

Looking after Infrastructural Security

Moving towards establishing proper security within infrastructure, there are a number of ways to cover that will help to achieve the desired goal: 

  1. Apply Perimeter Defense. This one is all about installing firewalls and making use of proxy servers. When you configure all the routers properly, you will be able to protect the application against any internal attacks. 
  2. Look after all the Systems. Being considered an important layer when it comes to the security of infrastructure are operating systems. Ensure to maintain them and install timely updates to keep them functioning properly. 
  3. Avoid server installation. There are things that you can keep on the server and there are those that are never meant to be there. Utilities and emails that belong to the clients should not be on the server so make sure to store only the necessary data there. 
  4. Control 3rd Party Elements. If you incorporate any third-party element in the application, you should constantly monitor it as they are often causing additional risks. Update them to the newest version, and always keep an eye to notice any vulnerability. 
  5. Be ready to face the unplanned. You cannot know when and how the application fails to function but you can get it prepared to recover faster. For the purpose of minimizing service interruptions and its downtime, your infrastructure needs to have high availability that enables automatic recovery in case one of the components fails to function. Things like hardware, software, and network, along with a few other elements ensure high availability and make it possible to survive system failures. To prepare a system set up with high availability, one needs to install load balancers (like HAProxy) capable of functioning on various layers and servers.
  6. Secure the Server. Facing the outside world, servers of an application can be extremely vulnerable and should be looked after properly. Hence, all the logs, system documents, and the operating system itself should be stored separately from web files. To eliminate the possibility of injection of the data or scripting that can be done cross-site, you can as well implement additional layers of protection through a content security policy. On another note, restricting content access is also possible through signed cookies. 
  7. Employ HTTPS. This SSL certificate is capable of securing customer information and keeping it safe. Nowadays, browsers, as a rule, alert users when they are to open a website or a web app without a proper SSL connection, so it is a necessity to have SSL for any query fintech applications are offering to address. 
  8. Do not underestimate the VPN. To ensure a safe connection through public internet access, it is recommended to install a VPN that is capable of giving access to web pages, app components, and services providing a proper public key. It adds on another level of safety and secures the app from undesired breaches. 
  9. Conduct Maintenance. If you oversee maintenance and ignore website security, it will have a negative impact on the fintech application. It is vital to conduct regular check-ups, install updates, and test the application on any possible vulnerabilities in the system and its components. 

To Sum Up

Concluding Part 1 of security measures towards building a safe fintech app, we are soon to come back with more about integrating security in the everyday workflows, the required testing stages, data encryption, payment blocking, API security strategy and so much more. 

Stay tuned and let us know if we can assist you with any of your queries.